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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

TV Licensing Pursues Bizarre Search Warrant Obstruction Charges

At the end of July 2014 we reported on a bizarre TV Licensing search warrant visit to a Kent property.

The visit was bizarre in the sense that the occupier acted perfectly reasonably throughout, but the TV Licensing's goons conducting the visit - Phillip Carvill and Alfred Gjergji - still indicated search warrant obstruction charges as a possible outcome. Their search uncovered no evidence whatsoever of unlicensed TV reception, despite that fact that Carvill personally attempted to install some equipment in a desperate attempt to incriminate the occupier.

We didn't think for one moment that TV Licensing would have the brass neck to pursue any trumped up obstruction charges, but apparently we were mistaken. In a remarkable demonstration of TV Licensing's vindictiveness, the occupier of the property was actually summoned to court on those charges. 

TV Licensing's actions further reinforce our belief that it pursues search warrant obstruction as some sort of perverse consolation prize, even when it uncovers no evidence whatsoever of unlicensed TV reception. 

Clearly TV Licensing doesn't like to lose face by searching a property where there is no evidence of unlicensed TV reception, so it tries to contort the circumstances to its own advantage. When the victim of TV Licensing's malicious search appears in court the newspaper headlines will always be "Joe Bloggs Convicted of Search Warrant Obstruction" instead of "TV Licensing Wrongly Searches Home Without TV". Of course if Joe Bloggs is acquitted of search warrant obstruction the newspapers won't want to know, so TV Licensing wins with either outcome.

In our earlier article we summarised some of the key circumstances of the visit that makes search warrant obstruction slightly implausible in our opinion:
  • The occupier allowed TV Licensing entry very quickly, as soon as he has checked their ID and established the purpose of their visit. The time stamp on the video shows that the goons were inside the property within 45 seconds.
  • The occupier immediately showed the goons where the TV set was and offered them the chance to examine it. At no time during the visit did the occupier stand anywhere near the TV set, or attempt to block the goons' access to it.
  • The occupier rummaged around to find the remote control and attempted to hand it to the lead goon (Carvill). The lead goon refused to take it, instead trying to get the occupier to incriminate himself by turning on the TV set. It is entirely understandable that the occupier refused to turn on the TV set in these circumstances.
  • The Notice of Powers and Rights (view here), a document given to the occupier that outlines TV Licensing's rights during the search, does not state that the occupier needs to answer their questions or help them turn on equipment.
  • The lead goon actually attempted to install the TV set by plugging in the power and aerial leads himself. Even if TV programmes had been seen, it is difficult to reconcile how the occupier could have been guilty of an offence due to the goon's actions of installing the equipment.
  • Both goons clearly lacked the technical ability and mental aptitude to operate and inspect the equipment present. On several occasions they were heard to say "I don't know how this works".
  • The occupier remained calm, well-reasoned and civil throughout. He had the forethought to explain his actions throughout the video. He also clearly explained the goons' actions during the video.
  • The goons made no attempt to caution the occupier until about 8 minutes into their visit, by which time the younger one had virtually completed the TVL178 Record of Interview form. Given this elementary breach of procedure, we'd suggest the completed form is evidentially worthless.
  • At no point was any TV programme image ever displayed on the TV screen (in case anyone tries to superimpose a frozen image from The One Show later on). The only images seen were the DVD player's welcome screen and the TV's own internal menu screen.
  • Chapter 16, Section 2 of the TV Licensing Visiting Procedures (which is usually redacted by the BBC) states the following in bolded print: "NB - a refusal to provide name, to cooperate with the interview or to otherwise be "difficult" does not amount to an obstruction of the warrant".
The occupier attended court to plead not guilty and the case is currently adjourned pending his trial. We will be following this very closely. In this case we really do think TV Licensing has bitten off more than it can chew.

Stay tuned for further developments in this very interesting case.


TheKnightsShield said...

Do we have any information (as in history) as to why TVL showed up on the legal occupier's property with a search warrant and the Police in tow? Was it due to a WOIRA perhaps? If so, maybe TVL was "upset" at the fact that not only had they been refused entry before on a previous visit, but they also failed to get any "evidence" for their "investigation" and they thought they'd go for the consolation prize. We all know that TVL don't like it when home owners/legal occupiers send them WOIRAs, the fact that they IGNORE them by default just goes to show that they'll use it as a means to esculate their so called "legal proceedings". Any insight you may have would be helpful. :)

admin said...

I have spoken to the occupier concerned and he has told me the following background information:

- There is no WOIRA in place.
- He had only received one visit prior to the SW execution.
- When asked about his interaction with the TV Licensing goon during their first visit, the occupier tells me that "I did give him a proper verbal slaughtering but that was after he didn't leave at the first time of asking"

TheKnightsShield said...

Sounds like a classic case of a TVL person responding to an "insult" in kind (not saying that the occupier "insulted" the TVL person, of course).

Glad to hear there was no WOIRA in place. At least that couldn't have been used against the occupier.

Anonymous said...

Staggering! Even with the video clearly showing NO OBSTRUCTION, TVL still go for an obstruction charge. Are the senior bods at TVL that mad? A magistrate/judge will surely be shown this video by the accused as evidence of no obstruction, and will surely see the events unfold thus proving no such obstruction?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add to my comment a few minutes ago:
I hope the blog admins will be contacting the accused and letting him know about TVL's redacted parts ref SW's etc, and other useful bits and bobs?

Timothy Brindley said...

After watching the video it looked like the TVL goon's main reason for pressing for an obstruction charge was the fact the L.O. would not give his name. Now for a moment lets forget that not giving his name should not in any way have obstructed the testing of the equipment and therefore the warrant and now they must have found his name somehow in order issue the summons what are the actual reasons given for obstruction.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not to give a name when it is demanded needs to be sorted out. After all, you can't summon a house to court. Of course the police will apply pressure because they are used to compliance by default and are highly experienced in making people think that they are required to do things which they actually are not.

I think that a firm, but unfailingly polite approach is far better then a 'verbal slaughtering' in all cases. If the goon is covertly recoding you (regardless of legality), a verbal slaughtering won't play well in court.

Anonymous said...

TVL's very own redacted visiting procedures regarding search warrants, clearly state that refusal to give name is NOT obstrucing the search warrant.


TV Licensing Visiting Procedure Chapter 16 Section 2

NB- A refusal to provide name, to cooperate with the interview or to otherwise be "difficult" does not amount to an obstruction of the warrant.


And lets not forget that once someone is cautioned as per PACE 1984, their right to silence cannot be ignored nor can they be "leaned on" to provide it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's that simple. I expect Capita would object most strongly to the unredacted visiting procedures being produced in court on the grounds that they are not legitimately in the public domain. They could argue that they are not genuine, and even if they were, that they are merely instructions to Capita employees and have no standing in court.

The PACE caution may also be less than helpful. If you are stopped for speeding you will be cautioned, but will still have to give your name an address because the Road Traffic Act creates a specific power for a constable to demand the name and address of a driver. Capita employees don't have any similar power so it would come down to whether the court thought that the refusal obstructed the warrant.

There's also the possibility of the police demanding a name and promptly supplying it to Capita, regardless of the law, and the visiting procedures do suggest that police officers should be manipulated into doing this.

Anonymous said...

When known, please publish the date, time and location of the trial. People should turn up and show support.

Anonymous said...

From what ive seen of these warrents they are issued under code B of pace if you read it particualy pages 12 to 14 it shows the warrent conditions their visiting proceedures are not the law. They dont need your identity for the property search page 14 has some interesting points on the subject.

Fred Bear said...

If the person hasn't already, it's probably a good idea to get a solicitor involved.

The policemen made notes throughout some of the search - they would subsequently provide a statement to TVL prosecutors - the accused person should make sure to get a copy.

It would be a good idea to ask for the relevant parts of the TVL Procedure Manual concerning warrants.

TVL seem to have waited a few months before sending a summons. This is their standard procedure for TV evasion cases - they check to see if a TV Licence has been bought and sometimes decided not to prosecute if one has. It might be interesting to find out if TVL checked the address for a licence and whether the outcome of the check had any bearing in their decision to press obstruction charges. In my opinion, if they did check, then this would weaken their case - after all, if they are so certain of the obstruction, why didn't they prosecute straight away?

Incidently, according to the BBC, in answer a question about how a TV set owner should show that they don't need a licence:

“We cannot insist that customers make any modifications to their TV equipment, however we would recommend that the equipment be removed from an aerial source (ideally the aerial connection taped over) and the television should not be tuned to a TV channel when switched on. In the event of a visit by a TV Licensing officer this should satisfy them that there is no suspicion of unlicensed use of a television receiver.”

see: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/211452/response/528223/attach/2/RFI20140765%20final%20response.pdf

I would say therefore that the person did not obstruct the TVL Officers because they should have been satisfied from what they saw (and the statement of the resident) that a TV Licence was not required. At this point they didn't need to know the name of the resident because they had no evidence against him whatsoever and no possibility of building a case.

Maryon Jeane said...

When I was visited (and allowed the goon to come in because I was unaware of the implications and I didn't want to interrupt a painting job which would have been ruined if I'd stopped before the paint dried), when he turned on the television it was not in any way tuned to a station (and, despite a lot of time spent fiddling around, he never managed to obtain more than a snowstorm). However a short while later I received a letter stating that a television "was found to be installed" and I was going to be taken to court. Fortunately I had amended the visit record heavily (over the protests of the goon) before signing it to reflect the truth, so I was able to fight back and, so far from taking me to court, the skirmish ended with my receiving an "ex gratia" payment of £50. So the only recourse is to keep calm, know your rights, refuse to be intimidated, and fight back all the way.

Fred Bear said...

The system of commission payments and targets (it was revealed a few years ago in a court case that the goons are supposed to get around one 'confession' per working hour) means that it is likely that the behaviour of the 'officer' that Maryon Jeane describes will happen quite a lot. I seem to recall reading that 80% of calls made by TVL personnel result in no-one answering the door. This means that if they take 12 minutes between calls, they'll actually only meet one householder per hour which is their target for completed TVL 178 forms.

Anonymous said...

Watching this I wonder if a good tactic is to get the goons to caution you as soon as possible in any SW visit. You can then invoke your right to silence and thus there is no way you refusal to answer their questions can be spun as "obstruction".
And if you film the entire thing even better.

Has there been any more word on this case at all?

Admin said...

I see your point, but they are only meant to caution a person once they are of the reasonable belief that an offence is being committed. That could be several minutes into the call, depending on how thoroughly they inspect and test equipment.

Anonymous said...

As its a criminal offense and they turn up with a SW without any evidence Ie u have no TV period. Can you caution them from the moment they arrive. stating and recording that in order for you to have obtained that SW your policy procedures and the issue of a warrant requires evidence. as its impossible for you to have obtained any evidence you have therefore obtained this warrant under false pretenses or corrupted the Judge or person signing the warrant which in urn is an offense exercising this alleged criminal act. I therefore caution you that you have the right to remain silent but anything you do or say from this moment on will be used against you and enter the premisis at your risk.

This is my current situation after a year of having no TV and many threats (Guilty until proved innocent) I have issued a WOIRA order and a claim for costs if I receive any more intimidating letters. I have got a very nice polite response but not convinced what lies ahead.

TinTin said...

Hi Admin
any new information regarding this follow up in court
as very interested to know the outcome,

Admin said...

Nothing new I'm afraid TinTin.

The occupier appears to have gone a bit quiet.

Anonymous said...

Hi Admin

Was this case ever resolved? Do you know the verdict?

Anonymous said...

I'm also interested in the verdict!

Unfortunately it appears we must give up our name... I don't own a TV or watch any UK catchup channels via internet. So I don't want to get shafted by refusing to give my name and be put on their database.

I found this from googling "Chapter 16, Section 2 of the TV Licensing Visiting Procedures"


2.10 No attempt is to be made by Capita staff to force access to premises. If any person on the premises intentionally obstructs access either physically or fails to assist by refusing to give personal details, that person is to be cautioned and advised that it is an offence which can lead to prosecution for obstructing the execution of a Search Warrant.

7.19 For guidance, some examples of typical wording that may constitute a WOIRA request, which will usually follow the person having said words like ‘withdraw’, ‘revoke’ or ‘remove’, are:
• The / your / TV Licensing's right to visit
• Common law right to visit
• Implied right of access
In addition to this, if the customer mentions anything to do with "trespass" this will also usually indicate they are making a WOIRA declaration.